Reflections on an Erasmus visit to Sussex TEL

Claire Fennell

Claire Fennell, Office of Vice-President for Teaching & Learning, UCC. Photo by Tomas Tyner, UCC.

My name is Claire Fennell and I am a Senior Instructional Designer from University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland. I recently visited the TEL Sussex team as part of the ERASMUS + programme, an EU funded programme allowing staff in Higher Education to visit another HE institution in the EU so as to allow the teams to share knowledge, practices and learn from each other.  The TEL team have asked me to give a reflection on my visit for this blogpost.

Before I start, I should explain that I chose to visit the University of Sussex because I had been following both the TEL Sussex blog and twitter feed and I could see that TEL Sussex were very active in promoting various TEL opportunities/workshops to their staff and this was an area I was keen to learn more about.

Now that I have returned to Ireland, I find myself realising that I covered a lot more than the promotion of TEL to staff. In the few short days I was in Falmer I was exposed to a variety of areas including:

  • Immersive technologies: one of my favourite initiatives was the “Go Bag” initiative, where the TEL Sussex team had equipped gear bags with tools which would allow for the creation of virtual reality content. What I liked about the initiative was that it encouraged both staff and students to be creators of content and to explore possibilities. It seemed like an excellent way to allow people to experience and learn about these emerging technologies.

Go Bag

  • Podcasting: TEL Sussex appear to have had good success with podcasting (see the Teaching with Tech Podcast), this is not something we have focussed on much in UCC and so recording an interview and seeing how the podcast was put together was a very useful learning experience for me and now that I have had this exposure I can explore the possibility of using it in UCC. Here is the podcast that features my conversation with Tab Betts on ‘Blending Classroom Teaching with Online Learning in your VLE’.
  • The Active Learning Network seemed like a great example of collaboration and of promoting best practices both across the university and further afield and I think it is something that I and others from UCC would be keen to follow.
  • The transition to Canvas: It’s not very often that any university changes VLE and so it was a real treat for me to see how such a big transition is implemented. It was also very interesting to me to see a VLE that was different to our own and to learn about the functionalities and possibilities it allows.

There is no doubt that I learned a considerable amount about a variety of TEL areas but I think the lesson that stood with me the most was the importance of taking a step back from time to time. Going to Sussex meant I took the time to look at TEL away from my own role in Ireland. It was extremely refreshing to be able to take this step back and just explore new areas of TEL and as a result of the experience I have come back to Ireland feeling refreshed and excited about the possibilities that TEL offers.

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Posted in Technology Enhanced Learning

Canvas news: 18/19 modules now available to teaching staff

Canvas update

We are pleased to announce that new module sites for the 2018-19 academic year are now available within Canvas for all staff registered as a module convenor, assessment convenor or tutor for modules that exist on the University’s database. These are blank sites which will enable you to create new content from scratch, allowing you to refresh your module content and update any materials, links and readings or alternatively to roll over (import) the migrated content from your 17/18 sites, ready for the start of teaching.

You can access your module sites by going to canvas.sussex.ac.uk and logging in using your Sussex username followed by @sussex.ac.uk (e.g. ano23@sussex.ac.uk) and your password.

A Guide to Module Rollover

Rolling over content is a straightforward process, TEL has created a step-by-step guide to take you through this. This guide is also available on our guides and FAQs page – www.sussex.ac.uk/tel/learningtechnologies/canvas/canvasfaq – where we will be adding further guides ahead of the new academic year.

You could also use Canvas’ own guide – How do I copy content from another Canvas course?. Please note that by default Canvas uses a different terminology, referring to modules as “courses”.

Canvas support from Technology Enhanced Learning

If you have any questions or would like help and advice preparing your Canvas module, please contact us at tel@sussex.ac.uk.

Canvas Training

Canvas Fundamentals training provides an essential introduction to the University’s new virtual learning environment. We strongly encourage all Sussex academic staff to sign up for a place. Attending the workshop will familiarise you with Canvas and your options for teaching with the new VLE. It also gives you access to your migrated modules from 17/18.

Professional Services staff are also welcome to book a place on this workshop, although we are in contact with several School Administrators to arrange specific sessions for School Office staff.

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Posted in Canvas

What makes a good Technology Enhanced Learning blog post?

five stars

Here in Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of Sussex we have been blogging for 4 years. In that time we have picked up a few clues as to what makes a successful post. Here I will share a few thoughts and some links to our ‘Greatest Hits’.

Since starting the blog we have tried to remain focused on some key things: who we are writing for (our audience), why we are writing (our purposes) and the type of posts that will serve our audience and purposes best.

As a team we are focussed on enhancing teaching practices and enriching student learning at the University so we consider the staff and students of the institution to be the primary audience for our blog. At the same time we recognise that we reach a readership far beyond our own campus and try to make our posts useful to the wider Learning Technology community as well.

The Sussex TEL blog serves several useful purposes, giving us a place to share news, publicise events and share resources. Most of what we publish falls into one of the following categories.

News, Events and Updates

A blog post can often be written and published quite quickly so can be very well suited to news that you want to share. At the moment we are working on the introduction of a new VLE and the blog has proved a valuable way of sharing updates about the project with the campus community. The timeliness of a blog also makes it a great platform to publicise upcoming events such as our programme of workshops.

Encouraging and supporting use of the institutional Learning Technologies

Whilst we use the blog to share ideas for using a wide range of digital tools,a key focus is on the learning technologies provided by the university. Poll Everywhere is available for staff to use in their teaching and posts such as Gamification using Poll Everywhere’s Segmented Responses and Get even more from Poll Everywhere – LaTeX, Surveys and more… are a great way to raise awareness of new features and ways to use the tool.

At the moment a lot of our blog posts are about Canvas, which is being introduced as the new Sussex virtual learning environment (VLE). By using categories we are able to present all the Canvas posts in one place and this is building into a great resource which can be used in face-to-face discussions with staff or used to provide more information when responding to email enquiries.

App reviews

This was one of the earliest types of post we published and remains popular. Our app reviews offer a quick overview of an app that can be used in teaching and learning, answering a few important questions: What is it / what does it do? Is it free? Will it work on my device? Where can I get the app? How might I use it for teaching and/or learning? What are the alternatives?

Some of our most popular app reviews have been:

Digital practice

As well as blogging about learning technologies we write about digital practice more broadly, because developing digital capabilities and confidence amongst staff and students underpins their use of technology in teaching and learning. Posts such as ‘Digital Productivity for work, study and life’,  ‘Reflective practice goes digital’ and ‘Clever apps for smart researchers’ introduce our readers to a range of tools that they can use for personal and/or professional purposes.

Case studies

As members of faculty explore the use of learning technologies, it is great to be able to use the blog to share short case studies. These posts are often based on interviews with the academics concerned, which is a very time-efficient way for them to disseminate their practice. As well as text-based case studies such as Seeing how it all fits together – a timeline for Art History our Teaching with Tech Podcast often features Sussex academics sharing their experiences of using digital tools in their teaching, such as Transforming Seminars with Padlet.

Listicles – 5 is our magic number!

Some of our most popular blog posts this year have been list-based articles. Here are 5 of our most-read lists of 5 things. These cover topics which are of interest to Sussex colleagues but also the wider educational community (as evidenced by the amount of retweets these posts get on Twitter). Posts divided into 5 short parts (each 100-200 words) are easy to read, but have enough content to be useful.

5 Myths and misconceptions in learning theory

5 Tips for multimedia enhanced teaching and learning

5 Great reasons for students to use OneNote

5 Top tips for creating inclusive presentations

5 Ways to make online discussions work in your teaching

What makes a successful post?

Just as we publish several types of post, and have more than one audience, so the success of a blog post can be measured in different ways. If a post inspires one Sussex academic to try something new and/or get in touch with the TEL team that is a success. High viewer numbers are great, but posts with modest views can have a big impact in terms of our engagement with the wider Education Technology community. Some posts, such as news and events, have an initial impact but are quickly out of date, while others carry on being shared long after they are written. So the success of a particular post may be evident quite quickly, or may continue building over the years.

We would be very interested to hear from readers of his blog what type of posts they find most useful. Please use the comments to let us know.

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Posted in Technology Enhanced Learning

5 ways to make online discussions work in your teaching

Have you ever tried to complement your teaching with an online discussion and found that the student engagement is sporadic or non-existent? If you have you may stand with many tutors who have given up on online discussions, but did you know:

  • Ensuring our students engage in discussions is a matter of inclusivity and equality. The main stream cohort of your students will engage in disciplinary discussions with each other outside of teaching time because they are in the same or similar social groups, but those on the periphery often do not get the opportunity to discuss disciplinary topics in the same way.
  • Discussions are a process where students receive immediate feedback – feedback from their tutor, feedback from their peers and self-reflective feedback as they prepare to contribute to the discourse and respond to the questions raised.
  • The depth and richness of your students’ learning is increased by topic-related discussions.

Online discussions do not replace face-to-face discussions, but they can supplement them and they have a number of advantages, including the ability for students to participate in them in their own time and wherever they are.

So how do we get online discussions to work?

1. Start using the discussion forum at the start of the module

Setting the expectation that your students will be engaging in online academic discussion early in the term helps them to continue the practice for the duration of the module. In this period it is useful to set out to your students how engagement in online discussions will help them learn the academic theories at a deeper level than they would otherwise.

It is harder to get students to participate in online academic discussions if you begin to use them midterm, because the students will think of them as optional and an unnecessary addition to their studies.

2. Reference the discussion regularly in face-to-face teaching

When you mention the discussions in your teaching the students begin to understand participation in the forum as being integral to their development in the module. In order to kick off a discussion it is useful to tell students, during teaching time, that you have set a question on the online forum and you expect them to respond. Once an online discussion has taken place, reference it in your teaching, and summarise the responses and the learning that the discussion has evidenced.

There are advantages when you post an academic question on the forum just before your teaching session. Many of the students will go to straight to their VLE site after the face-to-face session and will want to respond to the questions you’ve set immediately.

3. Pose open questions that do not have right or wrong answers

It’s important to ask the right questions to provoke reflective and critical discussion. Discussion is more likely to ensue if your questions are open and ask for the students’ experiences and their opinions. Questions that have right or wrong answers do not tend to provoke much discussion and can leave students who leave the wrong answer feeling exposed and demotivated.

4. Ask questions that are relevant to the student assessments

The focus of the students’ attention tends to be on what will be assessed. It is therefore important that the students understand that their participation in the discussion will align with learning that ultimately meets the assessment criteria.

The number and quality of the responses improve when the questions you ask clearly align to the assessment criteria, and you can be quite explicit how they do so when you introduce the discussion topic.

If the module is assessed by essay, the number and quality of the responses improve when the questions are generic enough that they will be useful to all students whatever their essay title, for example, focusing the questions on theories that can be applied to any essay in the topic area.

5. Pose a new question every week

There are advantages in designing your curriculum with regular learning activities. Activities that are one-off or irregular feel piecemeal and students feel free to not engage.

The regularity of activities means that more students are likely to do them, so you may see more participation in online discussions if you set them every week and keep referring to them in your face-to-face teaching throughout the term.

In summary, disciplinary discussion is an important part of your students’ learning. Some of your students will get the opportunity to discuss the topics by dint of the fact they have friends in the cohort, but some will not unless you set up opportunities for them to do so. Online discussion is one way to give them this opportunity, but it is often hard to get your students to engage so I hope this post has provided some strategies to help facilitate online discussion to support your teaching.

If you’re interested in using online discussion in your teaching feel free to contact the Technology Enhanced Learning team on tel@sussex.ac.uk. Please also have a look at our recent blog post highlighting the Discussions feature in Canvas – the new Sussex VLE.

Canvas Training

Places are filling up fast on our Canvas Fundamentals training workshops. We strongly encourage all Sussex academic staff to sign up for a place. Attending the workshop will familiarise you with Canvas and your options for teaching with the new VLE. It also gives you access to your migrated modules from 17/18.

Professional Services staff are also welcome to book a place on this workshop.

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Posted in Active learning, Blended learning

Canvas Know-how 4: Creating a Glossary in Canvas

Canvas Know-how 4. Creating a Glossary in Canvas

Whilst Canvas provides a variety of new opportunities that weren’t available in Study Direct, there are a couple of resource types that don’t have a direct Canvas equivalent. One of these is the Glossary tool, which has been used in some modules to provide a reference bank of terminology for students.

To offer a similar reference bank for students in Canvas you can create a Page from your existing Study Direct Glossary content. Below are the steps to copy the existing entries across.

Creating a Page in Canvas from a Study Direct Glossary.

  1. Go to Study Direct, find the Glossary and click on the name to open the glossary.
  2. Make sure the view is set to All.
  3. Now click on the small Print icon to create a print-friendly version.
  4. In the print view, right-click and choose Save As. This will save your glossary as a HTML webpage, usually called ‘print’ (although this might vary, depending on the web browser you are using).
  5. Open the website file you have just saved, and right-click to select ‘View page source’. You will see something like this.
  6. You don’t need to understand this HTML code – just highlight it all and copy (CTRL-C).
  7. Then go to Canvas and create a new Page.
  8. Open the Page and select Edit.
  9. Now click on HTML Editor.
  10. Paste the HTML code you copied at step 6 into the editor.
  11. Click on Rich Content Editor to see how your page will look. There will be a few lines at the top of the page you will want to edit out so that you are left with something like this.
  12. Don’t forget to Save or Save & publish.

You will now have a Canvas Page with all your Glossary entries in alphabetical order. If there are a lot of entries in your glossary your students can use the standard browser CTRL-F command to search for specific entries.

Allowing students to add to or comment on the Glossary

One of the best features of the Study Direct glossary was the ability to have students contribute words / concepts and definitions. This can also be done in Canvas, because you can allow students to edit a Page. When you are editing a page you will see Options where you can choose which type of users can edit it. Click the dropdown and select ‘Teachers and students’ to allow students to edit the page.

What if someone makes a mistake?

You can view the History of the edits to a page by clicking on the 3 dots next to the Edit button. A full Revision History will appear showing who made edits and when. You can then choose to Restore an earlier version.

Canvas support from Technology Enhanced Learning

If you would like further advice on creating a glossary or to discuss options for other student activities in Canvas please contact tel@sussex.ac.uk

Canvas Training

Places are filling up fast on our Canvas Fundamentals training workshops. We strongly encourage all Sussex academic staff to sign up for a place. Attending the workshop will familiarise you with Canvas and your options for teaching with the new VLE. It also gives you access to your migrated modules from 17/18.

Professional Services staff are also welcome to book a place on this workshop, although we are in contact with several School Administrators to arrange specific sessions for School Office staff.

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Posted in Canvas

Canvas highlights 8: Embedded Reading Lists

Canvas highlights 8: Embedded Reading Lists

[note: this post has been updated to reflect a terminology change on the Sussex Canvas VLE, to align it to Sussex terminology]

As part of the ongoing work to integrate core University resources with Canvas, we’re really delighted that the Talis Aspire reading lists are now fully operational within the VLE. To mark this, our latest Canvas Highlights post, written for us by our colleague Rachel Bramley, Learning & Teaching Librarian here at Sussex, explains how to make use of the integration and embed reading lists within a Canvas module.


Quote markIsn’t it great when students can easily find what they need?

Students should be able to find their reading lists through the related Canvas sites. There is an option on your Canvas menu that automatically displays the whole online reading list.  If you choose to, you can also embed each weeks’ readings into the relevant sections or ‘Units’ within your Canvas sites too.

The reading list in Canvas will be ‘live’, so if you make any changes in the Talis Aspire Reading List site, they will instantly be visible on Canvas.  And because of the improved integration, students won’t be taken out of Canvas when they navigate to the reading list, it will open up within the same page.

Display Your Online Reading List in Canvas

The option that automatically links to the relevant online reading list, appears in the Module menu under Reading List.  It uses the unique module code to identify match the module to the correct list, although as a tutor you should visit the link to confirm this match before it gets set up for your students.

Screenshot showing the Reading List view, with menu link, list name, search box and save button highlighted
The initial view of the reading list, showing (1) the Reading List menu item, (2) the name/code of the selected list, (3) the search box where you can look for a different list, (4) the Save button to confirm this list as the one to be used.

Having clicked Reading List (1), you can check the module code/title is correct(2) (you may first need to confirm your login).  If it’s not right, or you need to link to a different list, you can type in the required module code/title to search for and select it (3).

You will also see, next to the list title, a box saying “The list”. This option will display the entire reading list, although you can choose to show less if you prefer (see below).

Once you are happy the list is the correct one, click save to confirm it (4). This list will now always be displayed to you and your students when you click the Reading List menu link. If you’ve accidentally linked to the wrong list, as a tutor you can use the “relink” option to start this process over again.

Screenshot showing a student's view of the reading list in Canvas
A student’s view of the confirmed reading list in Canvas
Screenshot showing the relink option
The relink option in a tutor’s view of the confirmed reading list

Embed Sections of your Online Reading List in Canvas

You can also link to relevant sections of your online reading list, for example if both the reading list and your Canvas site use a week by week structure. Here’s how:

  1. In the “Units” view of your Canvas site (which may also be the home page), go to the relevant unit, for example Week 1.
  2. Select ‘+’ to add a new item in the unit
    Screenshot showing the Modules view in Canvas
  3. Select ‘External Tool’ from the dropdown menu.
    Screenshot showing the External Tool option
  4. Select ‘Reading List’ from the options and ‘Add Item’.
    Screenshot showing the Reading List external tool option
  5. You now need to choose what section of the list should be displayed here: click on the link saying ‘Reading List’, in the item you just created.
    Screenshot highlighting a Reading List module item
  6. This will open up the reading list in full and give you options at the top. Click on the drop-down menu (1) and select the relevant section you wish to display.  Then click ‘Save’ at the top, on the blue button (2)
    Screenshot showing the reading list section selector
  7. When back on the Units page, give the item a clear title, for example ‘Week 1 Readings’. To do this, click on the three-dots icon on the right hand end of the item row and select ‘Edit’.  Type in your preferred title and click on ‘Update’ to save.
    Screenshot showing name editing for a reading list item
  8. Lastly, don’t forget to publish it!
    Screenshot showing the publish icon

Support from the Library:

If you would like help getting started with online reading lists or if you want further help, please contact readinglists.lib@sussex.ac.uk or phone us on x7926.

Online support:

Our online help pages contain detailed instructions. These and more information about reading lists, digitisations and purchasing policies can be found on the Library website, under ‘Support for Teaching’:

http://www.sussex.ac.uk/library/teaching/readinglistsupport

Rachel Bramley, Learning & Teaching Librarian


 

Our thanks to Rachel for this Highlights post. Whilst Talis Aspire is a core University resource and should be used for reading lists across all taught modules, we know that some Canvas sites will not have a Reading List associated with them. In these cases, you might wish to remove the Reading List menu item from view to avoid confusion. Please refer to our Canvas Know-how post on the Module Menu for advice on how to do this.

 

Canvas Training

Places are filling up fast on our Canvas Fundamentals training workshops. We strongly encourage all Sussex academic staff to sign up for a place. Attending the workshop will familiarise you with Canvas and your options for teaching with the new VLE. It also gives you access to your migrated modules from 17/18.

Professional Services staff are also welcome to book a place on this workshop, although we are in contact with several School Administrators to arrange specific sessions for School Office staff.

 

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Posted in Canvas, Images and Copyright

Canvas Know-how 3: Managing the Module Menu

Canvas Know-how 3. Managing the Module Menu

[note: this post has been updated to reflect a terminology change on the Sussex Canvas VLE, to align it to Sussex terminology]

One of the most significant differences between the structures of Study Direct and Canvas is an increased range of navigation options for students. In the side menu of Study Direct the module was represented as a single linear ‘journey’ from top to bottom through the resources and activities. With the Canvas “module menu”, this ‘journey’ representation of the module is only one of the available ways of viewing the content, provided by the “Units” view. Students now have a number of additional ways they can filter or present a selection of the study materials and activities.

Some of the menu items will select and display just a single activity type, such as assignments, discussions, quizzes or conferences (for more about conferences, see our Canvas Highlights post). This allows students flexibility in how they access a particular activity, rather than having to find the relevant week or topic first. You can expect to see additional items in the module menu for the Talis Aspire reading lists and for lecture capture recordings as we move through the Summer, which will provide similar direct access to these resources.

There are other menu items that focus on particular sets of information within the module, such as the people, students and staff, participating in it. This “People” menu item also gives access for students to work in groups; these might have been set up by their tutors but students have the option to create groups of their own from amongst the module participants. The “Grades” item gives access to records of all the grades and feedback assigned to online assignments, contributory and non-contributory, within the module. The “Home” link will always return them to the starting page for the module site, which can be set to a number of different options by the module teaching team. We’ll explore these home page options in a forthcoming Canvas Know-how post.

A guide to the Canvas Module Menu items

Canvas - A Guide to the Module MenuTEL has produced a detailed, printable desk guide, which explores the structure of the module menu and the function of the individual menu items.

Alternatively, you can read Canvas’ own guide to the Course Menu online (note that, by default, Canvas uses a different terminology, referring to modules as “courses”).

Managing the Module Menu

One of the features of the module menu is that it can be configured by module tutors. Within each Canvas module settings area is a “Navigation” section, which allows you to change the order in which module menu items are displayed, for example to bring the most important ones for that module to the top of the list; it also allows you to hide unwanted menu items from students.

Because consistency of navigation is so important to students’ experience of the VLE – students repeatedly cite inconsistency of experience as an issue in their use of online environments for learning – we strongly recommend that Sussex colleagues agree a standard sequence to the module menu items within their Schools. TEL will be very happy to facilitate and advise on this.

Canvas Training

Places are filling up fast on our Canvas Fundamentals training workshops. We strongly encourage all Sussex academic staff to sign up for a place. Attending the workshop will familiarise you with Canvas and your options for teaching with the new VLE. It also gives you space to work on your migrated module content from 17/18.

Professional Services staff are also welcome to book a place on this workshop, although we are in contact with several School Administrators to arrange specific sessions for School Office staff.

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Blending Classroom Teaching with Online Learning in your VLE – Podcast S02 E04

Sussex TEL: Teaching with Tech S02 E04 – Blending Classroom Teaching with Online Learning in your VLE with Claire Fennell

In this episode, we talk to Claire Fennell, a Senior Instructional Designer at University College Cork in Ireland, about how to blend classroom teaching with online learning in your virtual learning environment (VLE). As we approach a new academic year, it’s a great opportunity to think about how you can build, update or redesign a site in your VLE to integrate aspects of online learning into your classroom teaching. Claire introduces the ADDIE model of instructional design and a range of interactive tools, such as Sway, Roojoom, Google Forms and Screencast-o-matic, which can help to enhance teaching and learning in both online and offline spaces. Check out this episode for tons of useful tips, tools and strategies for creating effective blended learning activities for your learners.

Links:

Claire Fennell
– Twitter: @clairefennel (https://twitter.com/clairefennell)
– Profile at University College Cork (https://www.ucc.ie/en/teachlearn/people/clairefennell/)

University College Cork Instructional Design
– University College Cork Instructional Design website (http://instructionaldesign.ucc.ie/)
– Twitter: @id_ucc (https://twitter.com/id_ucc)

Tools
– Microsoft Sway (https://sway.com/)
– Roojoom (https://www.roojoom.com/)
– GSuite for Education (https://edu.google.com/)
– Google Forms (https://www.google.co.uk/forms/about/)
– Google Docs (https://www.google.com/docs/about/)
– Microsoft Forms (https://forms.office.com/)
– Office 365 (https://www.office.com/)
– Screencastify (https://www.screencastify.com/)
– Screencast-o-matic (https://screencast-o-matic.com/)
– Zoom (https://zoom.us/)

 

Canvas Training

Places are filling up fast on our Canvas Fundamentals training workshops. We strongly encourage all Sussex academic staff to sign up for a place. Attending the workshop will familiarise you with Canvas and your options for teaching with the new VLE. It also gives you space to work on your migrated module content from 17/18.

Professional Services staff are also welcome to book a place on this workshop, although we are in contact with several School Administrators to arrange specific sessions for School Office staff.

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Posted in Blended learning, Learning Design, Podcast

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We are the Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) team at the University of Sussex. We publish posts each week on using technology to support teaching and learning. Read more about us.

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